As a dog owner, you try your hardest to give your beloved Fido the best as he grows old. You tend to all his needs and worry if you notice behaviors that differ from the norm.
It is natural for you to be concerned when your senior dog starts excessively panting at night. Just to be clear, panting is completely normal. Dogs do it to regulate their body temperature when they are hot or exhausted after exercising. But excessive panting at night when they are not particularly active is a cause for suspicion.
An old dog panting at night could be potentially suffering from something dangerous. Moreover, the lack of restful sleep due to excessive panting in older dogs can have other negative consequences on their health.
Why do dogs pant at night?
So why do dogs pant at night? There are many reasons for an old dog’s panting at night. While some of these are natural or hereditary, many can mean serious trouble for your dog’s health. Some reasons for your old dog panting at night can be:
Extremely hot weather can cause heatstroke in dogs and can be one possible reason for your old dog’s panting. Keep your dog away from the sun during the day and well-hydrated to prevent heatstroke.
How to diagnose: A dog suffering from heatstroke will pant abnormally, have glazed eyes, body temperature over 104, increased heart rate, and abnormal thirst.
Is it serious: Heatstroke can be quite serious and cause life-threatening problems like swelling of the brain, kidney failure, and intestinal bleeding.
How to treat: If you think your old dog is suffering from heatstroke, move him to a cooler part of the house, pour some cool (but not cold) water over him, or give him ice cubes to lick. Continue pouring cool water until breathing stabilizes.
A senior dog panting at night could be suffering from respiratory distress. It could be pneumonia or other pulmonary diseases. If you notice abnormal panting at night, it’s always best to visit your veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis.
How to diagnose: Symptoms of respiratory distress include high fever, inflammation, coughing, weakness, and difficulty in breathing.
Is it serious: Respiratory issues are serious and can worsen if not treated timely.
How to treat: Use a wet washcloth to try to bring your dog’s fever down and take him to the vet as soon as possible.
Cushing’s disease is an adrenal disease in which a dog’s adrenal glands produce too much cortisol – a stress hormone. Your old Fido could be panting at night due to Cushing’s disease.
How to diagnose: Symptoms of Cushing’s disease include excessive panting and shaking, increased thirst, increased urination, hair loss, and a potbelly.
Is it serious: Cushing’s disease has, unfortunately, no cure but the symptoms can be managed.
How to treat: Take your dog to a vet or veterinary homeopath to help with the management. Feed him supplements and a high protein, low-fat diet to help prevent further complications.
Pain could also be a reason for Fido’s panting at night. This is especially likely if he is restless and grumpy.
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How to diagnose: Agitation, growling, hiding, shallow breathing, and an increased heart rate are all signs of pain in dogs.
Is it serious: The seriousness of your dog’s condition in such a case will depend on the root cause of the pain.
How to treat: Turmeric is a natural pain reliever for dogs. You can also give him an Aspirin, Tylenol, or Benadryl to help with the pain but a visit to the vet is necessary to determine the accurate cause and origin of the pain.
Cardiovascular disease can also be the reason behind your senior dog panting at night. Old dogs are at greater risk of heart disease, and large-breed dogs like Great Danes and Golden Retrievers are particularly vulnerable.
How to diagnose: Symptoms of heart disease in dogs include dry coughing, shortness of breath, restlessness, rapid weight loss, and fatigue.
Is it serious: Although heart disease is serious, many treatment options are available to increase the quality of life.
How to treat: Contact your vet for a detailed diagnosis and treatment plan. Avoid high-salt foods and strenuous exercise, and do your best to make your longtime canine companion comfortable.
Stress and anxiety
Stress can manifest as panting in dogs and must be appropriately managed. An old dog panting and pacing at night can be suffering from anxiety.
How to diagnose: A dog panting due to anxiety will also pace, bark, shiver, hide, and destroy furniture. A stressed dog will have dilated pupils, blink rapidly, and exhibit changes in posture.
Is it serious: Stress and anxiety in dogs are quite common and nothing to worry about unless caused by a deeper medical condition.
How to treat: So how to stop a dog’s panting from anxiety? Calm an anxious dog through massage, gentle petting, and physical exercise. Use mental and physical stimulation, consistent routines, and supplementation to reduce stress.
What else can I do to help my old dog’s panting at night?
If you’re still wondering how to calm your panting dog, the following tips can help.
Create a calming environment
Reduce stress and anxiety by consciously creating a calming environment. Senior dogs’ needs change as they get older, and you must adjust accordingly to keep them as comfortable and relaxed as possible. If your senior dog is the anxious type, be sure to give him a safe space to retreat to when anxious or stressed.
Make sure your dog isn’t hot
Dogs normally pant to cool down. If your dog is panting at night, make sure he isn’t too hot and move his bed to a cooler location. You can further reduce the risk of heatstroke by giving your old dog an ice cube with their favorite treat inside, a damp towel to lay on, and access to cool water.
Regular exercise is an excellent way to reduce panting due to stress, anxiety, and pent-up frustration. Take your old friend on long walks, increase his playtime, and get him more dog toys to give him an outlet for all that extra energy. Take extra care to provide sufficient mental stimulation in addition to physical workouts. You can offer this stimulation by letting him sniff and explore on walks, getting some puzzle toys, or teaching him new tricks.
The Final Word
While panting is perfectly normal when Fido is hot or exhausted, excessive panting at night when he is not active can be a cause for concern. If he is sleeping in the hotter part of your house, move him to a cooler place and give me cool water to drink. However, if that doesn’t seem to be the reason, he might have an underlying medical condition. Take him to the vet for an accurate diagnosis and start the treatment immediately.
Related Article: Our Top 5 Tips to Care for Your Senior Dog
by Veterinarian Alex Crow.